Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie

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Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie

By Julie Sternberg, Illustrated by Matthew Cordell

 

Published by: Amulet Books; 1 edition (March 18, 2011)

Available in: hardcover, paperback, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were three books in a “juice” series by this author.

 

Tender.

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie is something wonderful. There’s a lot more going on than in most chapter books, and where first appearances speak to simplicity, thoughtful craft rules the end product.

little-girl-pickleOur protagonist is the dry-witted Eleanor, a city girl who has to explore the sadness of someone important leaving, the hurt of missing as time goes on, and the reluctance of a new relationship. She also learns acceptance, and even discovers unexpected joy.

Eleanor is somewhat reminiscent of Charlie Brown, Billy Crystal and Woody Allen in her dry, somewhat pessimistic tone. But this is never a downer. And the comparison is especially poignant as artist Cordell’s illustrations are nostalgic and unassuming. Power to those who draw softly.taxi

The real gem, though, is writer Sternberg’s spare, poetic prose. The rhythm, pace and sheer elegance of emotions are stellar. For example, see one section in chapter 17:

It was bad because

Natalie ran my bath

and checked the water

and checked it again

to make sure it wasn’t too hot.

Just like Bibi.

When Bibi stayed late.

To make it complete, the art direction is unfussy and clean. The no-nonsense, blunt, sans serif typeface perfectly captures the first person voice of our young narrator. And the quick chapters make this an ideal fit with the sensitive independent reader.

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What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

Real Ramona

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Ramona Quimby, Age 8

By Beverly Cleary, Illustrated by Tracy Dockray

 

Published by: HarperCollins (October 6, 2009)

Available in: paperback, hardcover, audio, CD, audiobook, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were eight books featuring the Ramona character.

 

Reality bites… or in Ramona’s case, cracks like an egg.

The Ramona character is one of the most beloved and lauded in children’s literature. Sturdy, witty and fully developed as a personality, Ramona is a modern masterpiece. So much has been written about the 1981 Newberry Honor book, I’ll focus here on the point of whether Ramona is still relevant, and if so, why?

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 manages to keep a light tone while focusing on the undercurrents of why life is just so dang hard. Ramona’s parents clearly work hard. They also struggle with money issues, bettering themselves and raising two respectful, capable daughters. Ramona’s sister stumbles through the first year of that most difficult time, middle school. And Ramona copes with bullies, humiliation, hurt, excitement, disappointment, regret, self-control, cooking and forgiveness: that whole big mess that makes up daily life. More than still relevant, this book is gutsy and important. It shows Ramona in the process of real life in a way that still keeps young readers engaged.

There are a few specifics that mark the book as older: pre-school is referred to as nursery school and the mention of typewriter clacks. But these are minor blips. More important is the basic humanity that marks the Ramona books with a truth rarely seen in contemporary children’s literature.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is marketed more for the middle grade market (ages 8—12), and yet, with a character (Ramona) in the third grade, younger children will read it. And although for a chapter book it’s a touch long, it still fits within the chapter book category quite well.

I like Tracy Dockray’s illustrations in the newer editions because they have an old-school feel without being tired or out of touch. Just slightly quirky—especially when the cat is in the drawing—they have a very realistic base. Much like Ramona.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

Pink Princess Posey

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PRINCESS POSEY AND THE FIRST GRADE PARADE

By Stephanie Greene, Illustrated by Stephanie Roth Sisson

 

Published by: Puffin; Reprint edition (May 27, 2010)

Available in: paperback, hardcover, audible audio, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were seven books in the Princess Posey series.

 

Charming.

Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade is a delightful, easy romp of a read. Girls ready for early chapter books will feel totally comfortable within the pages, a consistent field of easy words, ample white space, bold graphics and short chapters.

Although not complex, the plot is a harvest of feelings and problems that first grade children know so well. Topics touch on concern about the first day of school, sibling rivalry and the frustration of not always being in control of what to wear (an especially touchy subject for certain children). There are also examples of feeling shy, which morph nicely into brave moments. There’s even that awful but predictable scenario played out in so many childhoods: neighbor kids delight in making a frightening situation exaggerated into something even worse than imagined.

In the end, a delightful collaboration provides the solution to the problem. It’s a nice wrap on a short tale that covers a lot of familiar ground.

The illustrations add a soft, warm glow with just enough quirky edge to be unique and interesting. I love how artist Sisson portrays a freedom in the shading that make it appear as if the art is loose and alive, even if colored within the lines.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….